An interesting fact of science is that researchers investigate the natural world in terms of human actions. An excellent example of that is our understanding of animal communication. Recent studies have shown that turtles have a rather complex system of communication which researchers have missed because the communication is very low-pitched and quiet. The frequency of the turtle communication is below 20 hertz, putting it below human hearing limitations.
With new listening devices, researchers have found that baby turtles chirp to one another while they are still in their eggs. They discovered this communication in giant South American river turtles called arraus. The apparent purpose is to coordinate their hatching time. When all the baby turtles come out of their eggs at the same time, it dramatically improves their chances of making it to the river before being snatched by a predator. The researchers also found that mother turtles use sounds to respond to the calls of their young and shepherd them to the water.
You can add turtles to the growing list of animal communication with sounds above or below the frequencies that humans can hear. Examples of subsonic or ultrasonic communicators are whales, fish, bats, and numerous birds. God has designed life to have maximum survival potential. Being able to communicate is just one of the tools that animals have been given to enhance that objective.
Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” The creation is a carefully designed system that allows beauty and function, benefiting humans in every way. Every life form benefits humans in some way, but we may not understand how until we study all living things. Our websites and materials often point out surprising facts about how animals and plants benefit us.
Today we have many medicines, vaccines, and remedies for ailments derived from the creatures God created. However, many cures for human afflictions remain to be secured from other life forms that share the planet with us. Medical researchers are concerned that many creatures which might be able to help us cure disease and afflictions are becoming extinct because of the mismanagement of God’s creation.
Research on animal population changes from 1970 to 2018 shows that the number of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and fish declined by 69% during those years. The research was an exhaustive study of 5,230 species in 31,821 populations. The most significant loss was in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the decline was 94%. Africa was second with a loss of 66%.
The research also studied the causes of the decline in living things and found that overexploitation and habitat degradation were the main issues resulting in 70% of the loss. Pollution contributed to less than 10% of the decline. Thus, human greed and selfishness are causing most of the problems.
An old story tells about a man at the judgment asking God why He allowed him to die in a flood. God replied, “I sent you my workers with a canoe, a row boat, a motor boat, and an airboat, but you kept saying you were waiting for me to save you.” God’s creation design provides that every life form benefits humans. He has given us everything we need, from food to medicinal agents, but we continue to allow greed and selfishness to waste God’s provisions.
Vital resources are becoming less available because of careless human use of the resources God has given us. The most critical of these resources is water. California produces a third of the vegetables that Americans eat, and 80% of California’s water usage is for agriculture. Thirty-two of the fifty-eight counties in California did not receive enough rain to meet the needs of the crops planted in 2022. To supply the needed water, farmers pumped it from underground aquifers faster than those aquifers were being replenished. As a result, farmers may have to return to an ancient practice called dry farming.
Farmers in areas around the Mediterranean have been using dry farming for centuries. Indigenous people like the Hopi in Arizona have used dry farming methods for thousands of years. People grow grapes in many places worldwide, but irrigating them can take a lot of water. With dry farming techniques, a grapevine can send roots down six meters into the ground to get the water it needs. Other crops such as tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and corn can be grown by dry farming methods.
Dry farming means not watering from the top but planting early and allowing more space between plants so their roots can reach out for water. For example, when tomatoes are planted early, their roots will go deeper into the soil, reaching water and minerals that can improve the taste. Saving water and improving flavor are two advantages of dry farming. Other benefits include less erosion and fewer weeds, meaning less need for herbicides. Also, dry farming requires less equipment than irrigation farming. Disadvantages include reduced size of the vegetables and lower yield.
The design of plants that produce food for humans allows them to be grown with smaller amounts of water with winter rain or snow, more space, and careful timing of the planting. By looking at how God structured plant growth in arid areas, indigenous people learned long ago how to survive in the desert southwest. The changing climate may force us to study God’s design and change the way we grow our food to be good stewards of the resources God has given.
Whether we live in a city or in the country, we all recognize that cities are hubs of activity that keep life going and hopefully thriving. A living cell is like a miniature city, and we see life functions in the cell that correlate with activities that maintain life in the city. We can learn some things by comparing cells and cities.
A city has a boundary called the city limits, and cells have a membrane marking their outer boundary. At the city center, we have a city hall and courthouse storing vital information and sending out directives to keep the city functioning. Cells have a nucleus that performs similar functions. The nucleus contains DNA that stores all the information for constructing and controlling the cell’s components and, ultimately, the entire body.
Both cells and cities must have a way to transport materials within their boundaries. In cities, streets, roads, and highways perform this function. Cells have a transportation system called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to move proteins around and perform other functions. Both cells and cities need an energy source to function. Cities get their energy needs from fossil fuels, solar cells, and electrical generators. Mitochondria, “the powerhouse of the cell,” convert food calories into chemical and heat energy to maintain the cell’s life.
Garbage trucks and sewers remove waste in the city. Cells have structures called lysosomes filled with digestive enzymes that eliminate toxic materials. Cities have factories that produce the products people need. Protein factories in the cell are called ribosomes, which manufacture new structures according to the genetic instructions in the DNA.
While the U.S. Postal Service and companies such as UPS and FedEx transport materials between cities, the Golgi apparatus does that for the cells. For example, Golgi bodies in the pancreas package insulin for transport to other cells, allowing them to convert sugar into energy. Cells and cities need places to store essential commodities, and vacuoles perform that function in the cells.
We live in a city that was not built by random chance. Our city has a history of design that allowed Niles, Michigan, to be founded and developed. Just as Niles was not merely a product of chance, so too the cell is not an accident. In this comparison, we have greatly oversimplified our explanation of the cell functions since cells are even more complex than cities. If cities require design and purpose by intelligent beings, living cells give strong evidence of purpose and design by a wise creator God.
Two months ago, I asked a computer if God exists. Actually, it was Open AI’s chatbot named ChatGPT. This Artificial Intelligence program has received much attention in the form of praise and concern. The praise is because of the many ways AI might positively affect business, medicine, entertainment, work, and education. The concern is how AI can negatively affect those same areas. That is especially true of education because students can use it to write their term papers. Now Google has an AI chatbot named Bard.
Since I had tested ChatGPT with questions on God’s existence, I wanted to put Bard to the same test. I first asked, “How did the universe begin?” Bard gave me a 176-word response compared to 237 words from ChatGPT on that question. It was four short paragraphs that all began with “The Big Bang Theory.” The third paragraph also mentioned the “Steady State Theory and the Oscillating Universe Theory” as if they have some credibility, which they no longer have. However, the Big Bang Theory does not fully explain how the universe began.
When I asked the AI chatbot named Bard to give me a 300-word essay proving the existence of God, it responded with these 354 words:
“There is no one definitive proof of the existence of God. However, there are a number of arguments that have been put forward that attempt to show that God is a reasonable explanation for the universe and the existence of life.
“One of the most common arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. This argument states that the universe must have had a cause, and that this cause must be something that is uncaused itself. This uncaused cause is what people call God.
“Another common argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument. This argument states that the universe appears to be designed for a purpose. The order and complexity of the universe, the existence of life, and the laws of nature all seem to point to a creator who had a specific goal in mind when creating the universe.
“The existence of evil in the world is often seen as a challenge to the existence of God. However, some people argue that evil is necessary for free will to exist. If there were no evil, then there would be no good, and no choice between the two.
“Ultimately, whether or not you believe in God is a personal decision. There is no scientific evidence that can prove or disprove the existence of God. However, the arguments that have been put forward by philosophers and theologians can provide a framework for thinking about the question.
“Here are some additional arguments for the existence of God:
The moral argument: This argument states that the existence of objective moral values is evidence of a God who created us with a moral compass.
The argument from religious experience: This argument states that the personal experiences of people who claim to have encountered God provide evidence of His existence.
The argument from miracles: This argument states that the occurrence of miracles, such as healings and resurrections, is evidence of God’s intervention in the world.
“These arguments are not without their flaws, but they do provide some food for thought for those who are open to the possibility of God’s existence.”
That is the summary of arguments for God’s existence that the AI chatbot named Bard gave me. It corresponds very closely to ChatGPT’s answer, except that Bard added the argument from miracles and the existence of evil versus free will.
Again, I asked the AI chatbot named Bard the direct question, “Does God Exist?” Here is the answer I received:
“The existence of God is a question that has been debated for centuries. There is no scientific evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God, so the answer ultimately comes down to faith.”
Bard went on to say that there is no right or wrong answer to that question, but each person must make their own decision. I suggest that there is scientific evidence in the design and fine-tuning of the universe and life, but many people choose to reject that evidence.
Like ChatGPT, Bard did not mention Genesis 1:1, so I asked, “What do we learn from Genesis 1:1?” I thought Bard’s answer to this question was the best of all:
“Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God is the creator of the universe. He created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them. He is the source of all life and all order.
“Genesis 1:1 also teaches us that God is a God of order. He created the universe in an orderly fashion, with each part having its own purpose. This order is a reflection of God’s own character, which is orderly and just.
“Finally, Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God is a God of love. He created the universe out of love, and he continues to love his creation. This love is evident in the beauty and order of the universe, and it is also evident in the way that God cares for his creation.
“Genesis 1:1 is a foundational verse for all of Christianity. It teaches us about God’s character, his creation, and his love for us.”
So, I have now questioned two of the latest versions of Artificial Intelligence about the existence of God. Whether it’s an AI chatbot named Bard or ChatGPT, all AIs are created and programmed by humans, so we can expect the answers to correspond to human responses. How would you answer the question, “Does God exist?” The difference is that AI does not have a life, but you do. So, how does your answer to that question affect your life?
One consequence of many things happening in the world today is that we have worldwide food shortages. In the United States, we complain about the price of food and how much it has risen. Yet, in places like Somalia, there is simply no food available.
COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, rapid population growth, climate change, drought, and escalating conflict have combined to cause starvation and poverty in many places in the world. The United Nations reports that 349 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity, up from 287 million in 2021. In Somalia, the number of people facing “catastrophic” acute food shortages has risen from 5.6 million in December 2022 to a predicted high of 8.3 million by June 2023.
All of this pain and suffering is not something caused by God. The refusal of humans to follow God’s instructions, along with human greed and selfishness, are driving the chaos and pain. However, it does afford opportunities for Christians to provide the food and water that people need. No atheist group is going to address this crisis. We have to be reminded of Christ’s statement in Matthew 25:31 -40 that providing the needy with food, water, clothing, and support is what He expects of His followers. Worldwide food shortages may offer an excellent opportunity to show people everywhere what authentic Christianity means.
Yesterday we looked at Joseph in the Old Testament and how his approach to life gave him good mental health and made his life purposeful and productive. In the New Testament, we see even better and more direct biblical instruction for good mental health.
The classic New Testament example is the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Everything Jesus teaches in those three chapters is a recipe for good mental health. For example, telling people to avoid anger and harsh language (Matthew 5:21-22) is essential biblical instruction for good mental health. Avoiding sensual materials and associations is a proven way to prevent sexual misconduct (verses 27-28). Avoiding oaths and promises that you may be unable to fulfill is also essential (verses 33-37).
In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus talks about resolving human conflict. How many of us have been upset by those we disagree with, allowing that to lead to bad mental health? Revenge, hate, and retaliation can eat at our mental stability in destructive ways. In verse 44, Jesus uses the word “agapao” for how we should regard even our enemies. That word is translated as “love” in the Bible, but it means considering the other person of incredible worth. Then chapter six begins with a strong teaching about the importance of forgiveness.
One of the essential parts of the teachings of Christ is His approach to things, wealth, and possessions. Starting with Matthew 6:19 and continuing through verse 34, Jesus talks about how our lives cannot be consumed with getting rich or having material things. So why do billionaires have a poor mental health track record? Paul made a great statement about good mental health in Philippians 4:11-13 when he said, “…I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be rich or poor, how to be full or hungry, and how to suffer need.”
Jesus continues his discussion in Matthew 7 by talking about judging and the importance of not being critical of others. One of the significant mental benefits of authentic Christianity is its capacity to remove guilt from our minds. Baptism is a wonderful tool to leave our sins behind and live a new life. Romans 6-8 gives essential biblical instruction for good mental health by teaching us how to become free of the guilt that will destroy us mentally and spiritually.
The real tragedy is that many of us have had guilt and other mentally destructive teachings crammed down our throats. Jesus wants us to have good mental health and tells us how to achieve it. We need to listen to Jesus and study the life formula He gives us in His Word.
Our culture is just beginning to understand the importance of mental health. We are reminded of the consequences of ignoring mental health issues every time we hear about a senseless shooting of innocent people. In reality, there have always been people who are mentally ill. A careful study of the Bible gives some excellent instructions about how to have good mental health and some great examples of both good and bad mental health cases. One great positive Old Testament example is Joseph’s example of good mental health.
In Genesis 37-45. Joseph faced significant problems that could have caused great mental pain, perhaps leading to suicide or at least lashing out in angry retribution. How he dealt with life’s trials gives us a good model. Let’s examine four hardships Joseph faced that could have affected his mental health and how he handled them with a positive result.
#1. JOSEPH SUFFERED BECAUSE OF WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DID. Joseph’s father used bad judgment when he showed a preference for Joseph. That caused Joseph’s brothers to become jealous and consider killing him. Instead, they sold him into slavery, where he ended up as a slave in the household of a wealthy man named Potiphar (Genesis 37:36). Potiphar’s wife made a sexual pass at Joseph (Genesis 39:7), and he fled from her. She lied and accused Joseph of trying to rape her, and Potiphar put him in prison. Joseph managed his imprisonment well, but a fellow prisoner he helped reneged on his promise to Joseph. So Joseph remained in prison for two more years.
Have you had people do bad things to you? Of course, you have! But Joseph didn’t allow bitterness or retaliation to overwhelm him and destroy his mental health. We need to learn from Joseph’s example of good mental health.
#2. JOSEPH KEPT HIS INTEGRITY IN THE FACE OF THOSE WHO LET HIM DOWN. Joseph accepted a better position in the prison (Genesis 39:22-23) and used that to help others. He didn’t dwell on revenge or lose his integrity. We must avoid dwelling on the negatives in our lives and not become obsessed with getting even.
#3. JOSEPH NEVER FORGOT HIS PAST AND THE GOOD HE HAD RECEIVED FROM GOD. In Genesis 41:51, Joseph named his first son “Manasseh,” meaning that he did not dwell on his hardships, and his second son “Ephraim,” referring to God’s blessings. When he had a chance to get even with his brothers, he forgave them and met their needs physically and emotionally. Even though affected by prejudice, Joseph’s example of good mental health (Genesis 32:32) never wavered but maintained integrity and a positive spirit. We need to do the same.
#4 JOSEPH INTERPRETED WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO HIM AS A TOOL OF GOD TO GIVE HIS LIFE MEANING. One of the great benefits of trusting and following God is that it gives purpose to our lives. In Genesis 45:1-5 Joseph saw purpose in all that had happened to him. Atheism, secularism, and naturalism do not provide a meaningful, useful purpose to life.
The story of Joseph’s example of good mental health is just one example of many biblical accounts showing the importance of trusting God to find a purposeful life. Tomorrow we will look at this subject in the New Testament.
One of the fascinating things about research on microorganisms is the diversity of species and environments in which they live. Superheated material at temperatures of up to 400 degrees celsius is extruded from vents in the deep ocean. When it contacts the cold seawater, it produces porous rocks in the form called “chimneys.” This rock differs from rocks on Earth’s surface due to the pressure at those depths. Researchers from Portland State University and the University of Wisconsin found diverse microbes in hydrothermal deposits.
The researchers sampled 40 rock communities and found 3,635 species of microbes in hydrothermal deposits. The researchers were amazed at how diverse these bacterial communities are. The lead researcher Anna-Louise Reysenbach said, “At one volcano, there was so much new diversity that we hadn’t seen elsewhere.” Not only did they find new species, but they also discovered two new phyla and at least 500 new genera. In addition, the scientists found that New Zealand samples differed from those found in other places.
The design of life is so flexible that you can find living things in locations where you would not expect life to survive. It is important to note that scientists are classifying the microbes in hydrothermal deposits using the same phyla, genera, and species categories they use for life on Earth’s surface. The bacteria are not so different from surface bacteria, but they can live in environments of extreme pressures and temperatures.
We know that life forms exist in extremely cold and hot places on Earth. The design of life is exquisite, and these microorganisms support the higher life forms familiar to us. This study implies that life could exist elsewhere in the cosmos if God chose to put it there. However, there is a world of difference between finding a microbe on a distant planet or satellite and finding a sentient alien being as portrayed on the movie screen. The complexity of life and the amazing design of our own bodies shows God’s creative wisdom. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). As we learn more about the diverse places where life can exist, we are amazed at how sophisticated life design is.
One of the beautiful things about science is its methodology. Even when a theory is widely accepted in the scientific community, it still can be proven wrong and end up being discarded. An example of that is suggested by what the latest pictures from the James Webb Telescope are doing to the cosmos creation model.
The classical cosmos creation model suggests that the big bang produced matter/energy, resulting in atoms and molecules. The gravitational attraction of those molecules began to produce clouds of stars and dust. Those clouds then coalesced into small galaxies that grew and merged. Larger galaxies formed over time and are still developing.
Astronomers looking into space see galaxies interacting and sometimes even merging. The Webb telescope looks back farther than ever before toward the beginning of the cosmos. Early galaxies should be small with relatively small masses compared to the enormous galaxies like our Milky Way. However, Dr. Joel Leja from Penn State University has revealed that the latest observations by the Webb telescope do not support the widely accepted cosmos creation model.
None of this has any bearing on the cosmological argument for the existence of God as the creator. This research does not answer the question of the origin of space, energy, and time. However, it does upend the classical model of the creation and expansion of the cosmos. God is the creator of the cosmos, and His methods are so complex that human attempts to produce a cosmos creation model will take many more years of study and exploration. Indeed, “The Heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).